New topic: The A&E show - likes and dislikes

DiscussãoThe Black Orchid (A Nero Wolfe Group)

Aderi ao LibraryThing para poder publicar.

New topic: The A&E show - likes and dislikes

Nov 23, 2015, 11:45 am

We needed to get a new topic going here.

So -- the A&E show... First of all, I think it was done very well overall. I especially enjoyed the period settings, the costumes, the music, and very much enjoyed the brownstone (although the roof was a little under-populated with orchids -- but that's probably expensive). Fritz and Cramer were both cast very well, and performed excellently!

But it took me a long time to figure out what I didn't like about the show. I agree with many prior critics who have said that Maury Chaykin yelled a little too much -- but overall, I think he did a very good job with his performance and mannerisms.

What I decided I didn't like was Timothy Hutton's performance. It finally struck me that it seems like he's doing the whole character as tongue-in-cheek. It's like he doesn't take the part seriously. I've seen and liked him in other things, so I know he could have done better.

Nov 23, 2015, 1:31 pm

I didn't see all of them but I saw several. I thought I was alone in my, well, negative opinions.

The period settings, details etc I suppose were well done but I found it hard to focus on them because of my dissatisfaction with the casting.

Maury Chaykin apparently has a rep as a top-flight character actor, but I'm not familiar with his other work. What I saw was a two-dimensional portrayal of what should have been played as a complex character. It's like someone just told him "play it as a fat guy who is very grumpy". Fat guy? check, though I think of Wolfe as even heavier. Grumpy? ok, I'll "yell... too much". But besides being fat and grumpy Wolfe is a cosmopolitan European of great depth and subtle character. All that was missing. And Chaykin came across to me as very American.

And I think jhicks has well articulated my unease with Hutton's Archie. Archie can be a wise-ass sometimes but he's not a character on a sitcom. Hutton's Archie reminded me of nothing so much as Dagwood Bumstead in those old movies. I'm probably exaggerating there but I couldn't get that image out of my mind.

But it was probably a noble failure. Every Wolfe fan has his/her own picture of how it should be and it's hard to imagine a tv or movie production living up to all thatfan baggage. I was reading through the critical reactions as listed on the show's Wikipedia page (or was it the imdb page?) and they were almost uniformly positive, though the couple negative ones sounded like the writer saw the same thing I did. Now, I wonder, how many of of those positive critics were actually hardcore Wolfe fans? Ever read a Wolfe novel? read more than one? ready any multiple times? or just enjoyed what seemed to be a classy crime show without reference to the print series...

Nov 23, 2015, 2:50 pm

Crypto -- upon reconsideration, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to agree with every word you said about My. Chaykin's performance. I was trying to think of an intelligent and complex TV or movie character that I wanted him to be more like, but none came to mind.

However, Mr. Willobie -- I am going to have to take exception to your characterization of Hutton's performance as being like Dagwood Bumstead (laughing!!) -- now how am I EVER going to watch the A&E show without picturing Dagwood as Archie!! Thanks for the laugh -- and the apt description, sir!

I guess I'll have to stick to reading the books. I've read them all before, multiple times -- but this time I'm going through them chronologically by publication date. I just finished Over My Dead Body, so I have a long and pleasing journey ahead!

Nov 23, 2015, 9:40 pm

I do believe there is a thread about this subject somewhere in the past in this group, although perhaps it wasn't a dedicated thread? Always good to talk about subjects we are passionate about with newer members though. :) I'm thrilled there is activity in this group again!

In all, I would agree with >1 jhicks62:, & >2 Crypto-Willobie:.

That being the case, I still love to watch them. I did find that Maury Chaykin settled into his role as the series went on, but I he always seemed American, and not as European or clever as Wolfe seems to me. Also, Hutton's performance never captured Archie for me. Nor did his look. I love Hutton though.

I think they got it the closest that any performance I have seen has been to the books. I loved the "players" aspect, actors who repeatedly appeared as different characters. It made it feel like a small town play, which encouraged me to forgive some of the characterization more. The costumes and sets were to die for. I want to crawl into them.

Nov 24, 2015, 12:14 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this series, appreciating it as a thing in itself, not comparable to the reading experience. It was certainly much more "faithful", if that's of importance, than the abysmal BBC Sherlock is to its own literary source. The essential thing, the dynamic between Wolfe and Archie, and secondarily Fritz, was IMO extremely well rendered.

Speaking of Wolfe's weight, it bugs me--he's supposedly monstrously fat, but a 6-foot man (or taller, I don't remember exactly) weighing a "seventh of a ton"--a nowadays paltry 314 lbs--would definitely be an unmissable object, but hardly worth singling out. I mean, these days I see teenagers packing that much flab, or more.

Nov 24, 2015, 8:12 pm

I'm with Lola. I've read lots of Wolfe books, and have watched the series a couple of times, and I enjoy them both. (Point well taken about Wolfe's weight, though -- Chaykin doesn't seem large enough, but I suppose there aren't too many skilled actors who are larger.)

I also enjoyed the ensemble cast, MrsLee, and the costumes and sets.

I do not agree that Hutton's performance is reminiscent of Dagwood Bumstead! I think the tone of his performance is similar to those of Cramer and others in the ensemble cast.

btw, has anyone read any of the post-Rex Stout Wolfes (Wolves?) by Robert Goldsborough? I'm always skeptical of series books perpetrated by someone other than the original writer.

Editado: Nov 24, 2015, 8:31 pm

Oh, just to be clear--I meant that the numbers Stout gives for Wolfe's size don't add up, in this fat age, to an especially obese man (IOW there are plenty worse to see daily). I really enjoyed Chaykin and while I agree that he's not enormously fat, which doesn't fit the way Wolfe's size is talked about, he's not far off how Wolfe's given size would appear to us now, relatively.

On the tone of the performances--yes, I think there's a certain playfulness and verve they all seem to hit. It's somehow... jazzy. Not exactly super-realistic. Not unlike Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, if anyone has seen those.


btw, has anyone read any of the post-Rex Stout Wolfes (Wolves?) by Robert Goldsborough?

A friend has sent me a few, and I've read one... it's no substitute in the same way that nicotine gum (I imagine) is no substitute for a cheroot, but a desperate woman just might find some solace in the ersatz.

Dez 1, 2015, 11:44 am

Lola: I bought the original 6 or 7 books that Robert Goldsborough published in the 80s and 90s, but never actually read any. I even met him at a book signing, and got one of them inscribed. But I did buy, read and enjoy the three recent ones, beginning with Archie Meets Nero Wolfe. It looks like a fourth will be published in March.

Editado: Dez 1, 2015, 4:14 pm

When I first did the numbers on that 1/6 th of a ton is when I started seeing that Archie and Nero were not only employee / employer but also close friends. Wolfe is meticulous in his dress, his dining, his orchids, the one thing he can't seem to control is his weight and Archie is always needling him about it. "1/6th of a ton" sounds much heavier than it is. When it comes to Wolfe's weight, and maybe his own memory, I see Archie as an unreliable narrator.

I loved the A&E show but I did think that Hutton could have toned it down a bit. The sets and costumes were magic, New York through the eyes of Rex Stout, colorful, clean, and unchanging from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Dez 1, 2015, 4:24 pm

>9 TLCrawford:

In the books his weight is given as a "seventh" of a ton, not sixth. Yeah, anything with a "ton" in it is meant to sound formidable. Only, it hardly makes the same impression today as in the 1940s!

Dez 1, 2015, 4:43 pm

>10 LolaWalser:
Sometimes sixth (e.g., in Three Doors to Death), sometimes seventh. Once it was "between 250 lbs and a ton".

Dez 1, 2015, 5:18 pm

There's a reason that I remember it as a "seventh..."--because it recurs.

Archie Goodwin, the narrator of the stories, frequently describes Wolfe as weighing "a seventh of a ton." This was intended to indicate unusual obesity at the time of the first book (1934), especially through the use of the word "ton" as the unit of measure. In 1947, Archie writes, "He weighs between 310 and 390, and he limits his physical movements to what he regards as the irreducible essentials."3b

Once it was "between 250 lbs and a ton".

I hope not, it would be so uncharacteristically ugly of Stout to mix imperial and metric systems. But, in any case, both 1/7 and 1/6 fall inside that bracket.

Dez 1, 2015, 5:23 pm

>12 LolaWalser: There are two different tons. The Metric ton and the "short" ton. 1 metric ton is 1.10231 short tons. Stout's reputation is restored.

Dez 1, 2015, 8:10 pm

>13 TLCrawford:

Ah, YES. Completely forgot about it. Which means that Wolfe is even lighter than my numbers indicated above--if he's a "seventh of a {short} ton" it comes out to about 285 lbs; at "sixth", it's about 333.

Dez 1, 2015, 11:50 pm

Maio 20, 2016, 7:23 pm

I loved the shows--the visuals were great. I do agree with some comments about the Wolfe and Archie actors, as well as some of the recurring players. At times they seemed to be "over-acting"--especially Hutton, though I chalked it up to it seeming like a play, rather than a movie. Fritz and Cramer were great. All in all very enjoyable!

Nov 25, 2020, 5:51 pm

I can certainly appreciate all the observations here, and now having read about 12 books of the Nero Wolfe series, I can see the differences between pure Stout writing & A&E's version. That said, however, it was A&E's version that first turned me onto Nero Wolfe in the first place with the refined culture that was so much better on the show than most of what A&E was selling at that time - not to mention the CRAP network that A&E became with the cancellation of NW. Sure, Chaykin's NW was more bombastic & less European than that of the books; however, Chaykin was Canadian & hardly European. It's like asking an American to play a Brit. Can't be done properly, no sir, no way whatsoever. Only a Brit or an Aussie can understand Brits. Same thing with Archie's character played by Hutton. Sure, Hutton played it a bit more jovial & light-hearted than Stout's A.G., but I don't think it was that much of a difference to make it poor. Turning books into screenplays is an inherently difficult task. You have to appeal to the general audience for sustained ratings, not just the purists like we are.

I am overall satisfied with A&E's NW series, and especially grateful for turning me onto reading the NW books as they've brought me even more pleasure & satisfaction over the years.

Just my 2 cents as an American.

Nov 25, 2020, 5:57 pm

>17 Javman83: I think you make some good points. I had already been reading the Wolfe books for years before the A&E series (I'm old enough to even remember the short-lived attempt that aired on one of the broadcast networks that only lasted one season in 1981 It was not good but Lee Horsley, the actor who played Archie, satisfied my teenage girl requirements).

When I finally got to watch the A&E series on DVD, I was impressed at how well it captured the feel of the world Stout created, even as we can all generally agree that Chaykin missed the mark somewhat and all in all it was a little broader humor than Stout's writing.

And the fact that it brought new fans like you to the books is a very big plus in its favor!

Dez 1, 2020, 4:13 pm

>17 Javman83: I can respect your point about being turned on to the Nero Wolfe books by the TV series. I was the same way with the Spenser: For Hire series in the 80s. I hadn't read any of the books before that series, so in my mind Robert Urich is Spenser. Many people who had read the books first didn't like that casting. But now, I've also read all the Spenser books many times each.